âA Special Report from Victor Marchione, MD
Nuts are high in calories, but if you eat them in moderation, you shouldn’t have trouble with gaining weight. The biggest health benefit you can get from eating nuts is a healthy heart. That alone should convince you to eat a handful a day. But nuts also contain all sorts of other health benefits. Nuts are special. They are, in effect, a “food nursery” for growing plants. They contain all of the highly concentrated proteins, calories and nutrients that a plant embryo will require to flourish. Here are some of the nutrients found in just three popular nuts.
—Walnuts are high in omega-3 fatty acids. They are also a rich source of plant sterols, which researchers have found play a significant role in lowering serum cholesterol levels. They are a good source of protein, magnesium, copper, folate, and vitamin E. Walnuts have the highest antioxidant activity of all the nuts.
—Peanuts are actually legumes, but most of us think of them as nuts, so we’ll include them here. One ounce of peanuts can supply 15% of your daily requirement of vitamin E, 2.5 grams of fiber, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, niacin, folate and zinc, and seven grams of protein.
—Almonds are the best source of vitamin E. They are also higher in protein than most other vegetable sources. A quarter of a cup of almonds will net you 7.6 g of protein — more than you get when you eat a large egg! Almonds are also a good source of riboflavin, iron, potassium and magnesium.
How do nuts fare when it comes to results from clinical trials? A recent study conducted at the Yale University School of Medicine set out to determine the effects of daily walnut consumption on heart function in patients with type 2 diabetes. For the study, which was a randomized, controlled, single-blind, crossover trial, 24 participants with type 2 diabetes were recruited. The average age of the participants was 58 years old and included 14 women and 10 men. They were each randomly assigned to one of two groups, receiving either a diet enriched with 56 grams of walnuts/day or a diet without walnuts. Participants underwent heart function tests before and after each eight-week treatment phase.
The research team found that heart cell function significantly improved after consumption of the walnut-enriched diet compared with the diet without walnuts. The walnut-enriched diet also increased fasting serum glucose and lowered serum total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol from baseline. The researchers concluded that a walnut-enriched diet improves blood vessel function in type 2 diabetics, suggesting a potential reduction in overall cardiac risk.